Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
The first time Taylor Perry met Nancy Smith last year, the soon-to-be Durango High School senior didn’t know whether or not she wanted to play college basketball.
The soon-to-be Durango girls basketball coach said she knew Perry was going to.
Six feet and one inch in height, hard work and some smarts will do that, Smith said when Perry recently signed her national letter of intent to play for Louisiana State University-Eunice, a junior college, on a full-ride scholarship next year.
“Your a good, solid post player and have really long arms,” Smith told her at the signing with plenty of emphasis and gesticulating on the “really.”
But if Smith immediately was gleeful about her post’s long arms, Perry said the lankiness has taken some getting used to.
“I used to hate being tall when I was younger, but now I feel blessed,” Perry said.
Smith, a former post player at the University of Wake Forest, said Perry also has really come to understand what it means to be a post player.
Smith started helping her refine her powerful post technique in the offseason before she even knew she would take over as head coach for Perry in the middle of the player’s senior season.
Perry’s mother, Heidi Perry, said Smith took the time to get specific and teach her daughter what to do with the ball – and how to beat up on opponents – under the basket.
She led the Demons with an average of 11.5 points per game last season.
That teaching helped mold the lanky Taylor Perry into both a “solid post” and, as her dad Joel put it to her chagrin, a “mother hen.”
Perry said she considers herself a leader – not a vocal one but one that leads by example and takes care of her fellow teammates.
“I think she brings a ... welcomeness,” Heidi Perry said.
Perry said she plans to carry that attitude to Eunice, along with her basketball skills and hustle.
She’ll need plenty of that last one too under coach Michael Bari.
Perry said the Bengals run a fast offense with lots of running. Although she’ll be playing down low, Perry said Bari requires all of his players to run a 6-minute, 30-second mile in order to play.
Although she said that scared her at first, it’s not a barrier to playing more basketball.
“If he wants me to run, I will run until I die,” Perry said.
That severity also drew her to the LSU-Eunice program.
“He just seemed extremely serious about his team just being successful,” Perry said.
The change of scenery was a draw, too.
Perry said she’s ready for the warmth and humidity in the heart of Cajun country, which Joel Perry’s family calls home.
She’s also excited for the food, for the beautiful LSU facilities and maybe even the accents.
“You’re going to talk like those swamp people from that show,” Heidi Perry said.
“I think she’s not going to understand anybody for a while,” said Smith, who played basketball at Wake Forest in North Carolina.
After a two-year stint at the junior college, Perry said she hopes to get a shot to get rerecruited while she finishes up her bachelor’s degree.
Smith said she still could “take it up 10 more notches” over the next couple of years, so that’s a real possibility.
But beyond basketball, Perry said she wants to be a forensic psychiatrist, a career that will require a degree form medical school and hard work off the basketball court.
“I’m not creepy or anything,” Perry said. “I just think it’s so interesting.”
With her absence looming, Perry’s two sisters already are fighting over her room, though Heidi Perry said she’s surprised her husband hasn’t tried to make it into a “man cave” first.
Room or no room, sister Riley Perry said she’ll miss her best friend, even as she takes advantage of LSU-Eunice’s “nice” practice jersey’s and decked out locker rooms.
And Kelly Perry, the other sister, said she’s just excited to see what Perry does.
“It’s just nice to see her get out ... and do something bigger,” Kelly Perry said.
Steve Lewis/Durango Herald file photo